Bonfire night is a fun evening for all involved: fireworks, hot food, and fairground rides await those who go out for the night, while the smell of smoke and burgers fills the air. However, for your furry friends, November 5th is a traumatic night. Loud noises and bright flashes can unsettle all animals, especially those sensitive to sound. We've compiled our top tips to help you get your pet through the worst of it, with minimal stress and discomfort.
There's plenty you can do before the bonfires start to set your pet up for the coming nights. A tired dog is a happy dog, so take him out for plenty of walks during the day, and give him full access to the back-garden throughout daylight hours. If your dog is more tired than usual, it's more likely that he'll be happy to sleep, and miss the worst of the fireworks.
Animals hide when they are scared or anxious, so make a den, in the quietest part of the house that they can go to when the noises start. Fill it with bedding, places to burrow into, and toys, and make sure you spend time with them there, so they associate it with safety. If you have a horse, decide where they will be most happy, and make sure they have extra food and bedding if they are staying in, and plenty of hay to keep them occupied if out.
It's worth speaking to neighbours and organisations about the location of your yard - tell them where you are, and that you would appreciate them not having displays in close proximity. If they can't avoid that, then ask for enough warning so you can get everything in place to keep your horse calm.
Any pet that could possibly get out of the house should have easy to find identification on them. Even if your cat or dog doesn't wear a collar, it's worth investing in one for this time of year. If something goes wrong, and they get out, you want people to be able to instantly bring them home safe, instead of having to go through the process of asking a vet to scan for microchips. With bigger animals, such as horses, consider leaving field safe headcollars on, with an identity tag clipped on. You could also spray postcodes onto rugs - this also works as a brilliant theft precaution!
If you're still unsure about how your pet will respond, or if you know they react badly, speak to your vet about sedation. They will be able to offer the best advice and route to take. With horses, try to move them to a different yard, or the furthest field, if you don't think sedation will be an option. Remember that debris from fireworks landing in fields is more dangerous than the noises, so do an extensive search after displays, and try to keep horses out of fields that border onto any displays.
Check all bonfires for hedgehogs and other wildlife before setting fire and starting - many will see it as the perfect place to hibernate!
When the explosives start, it's important to remain calm: your animal will pick up on any tense vibes, and it will make them worse. Even if you're worried, try to stay relaxed - they will be fine, especially if you've prepared everything for them the best you can. Try not to leave your pets at home alone, especially if it's their first fireworks experience with you. If you know your animal is fine, then just leave the radio or television on to provide them with some 'normal' noise.
It goes without saying, but all animals should be kept inside for the duration of the night. Not only will they be terrified outside, but they could unknowingly cross the path of a fireworks display, or become disorientated and unable to find their way home. Keep doors and windows locked, and be careful they don't slip outside if you go out!
Offer lots of games, toys and treats to keep their minds off what's going on outside - bribery is a brilliant tool on this occasion! Keep the curtains closed so bright flashes don't add to the worry, and you should be able to block the outside world out.
It's important to let your pet react how he wants or needs to. Some will pace, and some will dive straight for their 'safety den'. Only intervene if you're truly worried, but otherwise, just stay calm and make the process as easy as possible.
With horses, try to stick around long enough to see how they react to the first few going off. Many will settle once they've had a look, but if yours doesn't, get additional help. Don't enter the stable alone if he's thrashing around or acting unpredictably: you shouldn't risk your own safety.
There are several items on the market that you can get to help your pets during firework season. These include simple but effective measures such as blackout blinds, which muffle noise as well as sound, and ear muffs for dogs! More high-tech solutions include pheromone dispersers, which your vet will be able to aid you with, and 'thunder shirts' for dogs. These apply a constant gentle pressure to the dog, to help calm anxiety.
If you have small pets in hutches, such as rabbits, guinea pigs or rodents, bring them inside, either to a quiet room or a garage. If this isn't possible, face the front of the hutch to a wall, to help minimise the sound and light coming in.
Add extra bedding to the hutch or cage, so they can burrow and block out the noise if frightened, and cover it with a thick blanket or quilt. This will help to block out sounds, but make sure that there's enough ventilation!